24 Hours in Calicut- A Food Tour

We recently embarked on a 24 hours food tour to Calicut with the first set of friends I ever made, i.e my cousins. Calicut happens to be my hometown and the one place we religiously went to every summer vacation during my school days. I am no outsider to Calicut but I had never experienced my hometown as a tourist till my mad hatter cousins came up with a plan to take a weekend road trip from Bangalore to Calicut with the noble purpose of hogging. Bangalore to Calicut via road takes around 7-8 hours via the scenic western ghats and a national forest reserve. The route goes through the city of Mysore, Bandipur, Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad and down to Calicut. The scenery also transitions from the concrete city of Bangalore, to thick forests where animals play peekaboo, to tea laden mountains and down to the land of coconut trees. Calicut or Kozhikode like the rest of Kerala has a staple diet of rice and fish with a accompaniment of varied vegetables with a sprinkling of coconut. Kozhikode has a rich history of being an important port city on the old trade routes and also has the distinction of being the city where the first European ship (Vasco da Gama) arrived from the sea route. Every corner of Kozhikode has reminders of its forgotten past but the one aspect where Calicut’s vibrant trading past comes to the fore is in its food. Kozhikoden food has strong Arab influence. One can see it in the biriyani, the halwa at Sweet Meat Street or the various snacks and savories. The middle-east still influences Kozhikode with the shawarma and kubus being the latest entrant in  Kozhikode’s palate.

Tea Shop at Wayanad
Tea Shop at Wayanad
Tea making apparatus
Tea making apparatus

Our first stop on our food tour was this small tea shop on the mountains of Wayanad. Most tea shops in Kerala have snacks and small eats such as appam and curry along with tea and ofcourse.. bournvita (a chocolate drink)!

Tea gardens are in plenty in Wayanad and it is a beautiful small hill station with waterfalls and lakes. There are many resorts in Wayanad adjacent to tea gardens that are open for tourists. Wayanad also has the hand paintings made by cave men at Edakkal which for an interesting trip by itself. Wayanad which lies adjacent to coastal Calicut is very different in landscape and climate because of the altitude,mists and luscious tea gardens.

Zains Hotel
Zains Hotel

We reached Calicut by afternoon and in time for lunch.The hotel we selected for lunch was a mappilla establishment called Zain’s. Zain’s has a limited menu of arab or traditional mappilla fare of biriyani, ghee rice with chicken roast, mussels fry and other such goodies straight out of a non vegetarians paradise. Zain’s is run by a mother daughter duo who are hands on into their restaurant. Another popular food joint for biriyani in Calicut is Hotel Paragon where the menu is more vast and includes a lot of more of Kerala and its food.

Kite Seller at the beach
Kite Seller at the beach

Calicut coast overlooks the Arabian sea and has had a long meaningful relationship with this piece of the ocean since time immemorial. Calicut beach is a bustling scene for locals and is a great spot to observe and participate in the lives of people in Calicut.

Pickled Mango and Gooseberries
Pickled Mango and Gooseberries

The beach here has a  number of interesting and innovative snacks. There are pickled vegetables and raw mango that has been a constant favourite. Ice achar is an innovative snack that is found exclusively near the beach. It is a sweet and spicy preparation made of ice shavings and pickled mango.

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Ari Kaduka or Fried Mussels coated in rice flour.

Fried snacks suchs as Ari Kaduka which is fried mussles coated with rice flour are found near the beach. Hotels in Kerala have decent hygiene component but for indulging in the fare at the beach one might need a stronger stomach. Another favorite aspect of Kerala for me is that the food bill is always within means, no matter how much or how many of us hog.

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Making piping hot banana chips
Spices at the old Big Bazaar of Calicut
Spices at the old Big Bazaar of Calicut

Calicut is famous for its banana chips in Kerala and across India. Picking up a few packets of crispy and hot banana chips should be on everyone’s itinerary. The chips are made fresh and hot in small bakeries in Calicut. Some of the popular ones are Calicut bakery and Shobha bakery. Spices are what bought many traders and conquerors to Calicut. Spices such as pepper, cloves, red chilly, bay leaves can be found in wholesale at Velliangadi in Calicut, the literal translation of Velliangadi is big bazaar.

Halwa at SM Street
Halwa at SM Street

Calicut halwa is a must for first timers to Calicut. The halwa is unique in taste and must be a descendent of its Arab ancestor. These sweet meats can be found in most bakeries or at the aptly named Sweet Meat street or SM Street.   Other popular tourist destinations in and around Calicut are Beypore beach where one can see the ships (Uru) of olden times being made and also pick up a souvenir of a ship in a bottle. Also Kappad beach is another quaint and rocky beach that was made famous by Vasco da Gama accidentally landing there when his Spanish ships missed the port of Beypore. A little ways away is the city of Mahi which is part of the union territory of Pondicherry and has old french vestiges. Calicut should be an interesting stop on your next trip to Kerala and in case you are looking for a place to stay, leave a comment. I might be able to give you some good recommendations.

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Two bags and a baby

   
 I am a travelling young mother of a cute and happy 10 month old. We live a nomadic style of life because of the nature of our job. Also, we love to travel and we want to stay together as a family.We have been to four countries and a number of cities as a family in the last 10 months though the packing and re packing can become tedious, the travel itself has been some untold amounts of fun. The first three months of my new born with the colic and feeding schedule, we did not venture out much. Though we did take  short weekend getaway’s with a car loaded with necessities for the baby like the stroller, bath tub, crib, toys and other such things.

As we started travelling more and further away, carrying so much stuff became impractical. The airlines baggage allowances made it near impossible. Also a realization dawned on us that our baby came to us naked and we kept plying him with material stuff he just does not need. We buy him an expensive toy and he would much rather play with a spoon. Downsizing is key when it comes to travelling with a baby, carry only half of what you think you might require. A suitcase full of my clothes and toiletries, a suitcase of his clothes, baby shampoo, diapers and cream, blanket, 2 toys, a wrap and a stroller and we are set for our next adventure.

In my experience so far, flying with a baby is not the nightmarish experience it is often made out to be. That said, my baby might just prove me wrong the next time we take a flight. So far I have kept my baby busy with the magazines and a few nursery rhyme videos which work as distraction. The umpteen number of papers and cards one finds in the seat pocket also help. We have mostly flown during his sleep time so as long as he gets his milk and gets to sleep nuzzled on me, he has been a happy camper.

Food is a major worry when changing continents and countries. The simple rule of thumb I have followed is to uncomplicate. Before my baby started solids, carrying food was not an issue as all I had to do was pop a boob. But after we began solids we have our trusted instant baby cereal as part of our arsenal. The rest of the food we have bought locally like fresh fruits. Once my baby started expressing interest in the food we eat, I prefer to give him the less spicy version of whatever we are eating. The only thing we have been strict about is boiling the water he drinks wherever we are.

What I have found in my travels is that hotels and staff are very accommodating for our unique baby needs like washing his baby bowls and letting me pick out my baby’s lunch from the breakfast buffet. Ordering a kid meal is too much food for my baby. Hotels these days are accommodating young travelers with a baby chair and an in-room crib these days. A hand shower in the bathroom makes bath time simple without me having to tote a bath tub around.

Becoming a parent makes one less self conscious, so that’s always a plus. We don’t mind when certain people give us judgmental looks when they see us in a swanky restaurant with a sleepy baby in the stroller. I have found more number of helpful baby loving people than the former kind. Not all babies are equal, some might be more demanding or have different demands. Also every parenting style differs and matters. But travelling with a baby is possible and also lots of fun.